making of dictionaries is an art of immense detail, a never-ending
quest for precision, accuracy, and truth. The U of C contribution
to the field is marked by professors and alumni who have in the
past created the standard texts in use today, and are today creating
the texts that will be the standards of tomorrow.
professor James R. Hulbert, who assisted Sir William Craigie on
the Dictionary of American English on Historical Principles
a half-century ago, said somewhat idyllically about the field,
"I know of no more enjoyable intellectual activity than working
on a dictionary.... It does not make one's life anxious, nor build
up hopes only to have them collapse. Every day one is confronted
by new problems, usually small but absorbingly interesting; at
the end of the day one feels healthily tired, but content in the
thought that one has accomplished something and advanced the whole
work towards its completion."
are some Chicago faculty and alumni who have advanced "the
Generally considered the foremost lexicographer of his time, Craigie
came to the University of Chicago after working for 31 years on
the first edition of the OED, a task for which he was knighted
and received an honorary doctorate of letters from Cambridge University.
From 1925 to 1944, during his tenure as a professor of English
literature at Chicago, Craigie authored the Dictionary of American
English on Historical Principles, a 2,553-page lexicon of
words used in America from 1607 to 1925.
expert on Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian languages, Craigie also
edited the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and
was influential in establishing the Frisian Academy, the Anglo-Norman
Text Society, the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, the Icelandic
Rimur Society, and the Scottish National Dictionary.
M. Mathews, X'27
A student in Chicago's first lexicography class, taught by Craigie,
Mathews worked as an assistant editor on Craigie's Dictionary
of American English on Historical Principles for 19 years,
during which time he also studied at Oxford and Harvard Universities.
the completion of the DAE in 1944, Mathews was appointed
head of the dictionary department of the University of Chicago
Press, supervising, among other works, publication of the Dictionary
of the Older Scottish Tongue. In addition to bringing the
DAE up-to-date in 1951 with his Dictionary of Americanisms,
he also authored The Beginnings of American English, A Survey
of English Dictionaries, and Some Sources of Southernisms.
Hargraves has made a career of freelancing his lexicography skills
to a variety of publishers including Bloomsbury, Longman, Collins,
Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Random
House. He is currently working on a learner's dictionary (Bloomsbury),
a German-English dictionary (Langenscheidt), and a dictionary
of military terms (Oxford).
is ideally suited for the self-employed home worker because now
most work is done on computer, distributed by e-mail, or picked
up online," notes Hargraves. "I have three dictionaries
on my laptop hard drive, and I often work while traveling. I stumbled
into the field by answering an ad from Longman for an American
speaker when I lived in the U.K. Once I got into it, I realized
that it was the gig I'd been looking for all my life."
McKean, AB'93, AM'93
Beginning her career as a volunteer for the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary
Project before becoming editorial manager for the Thorndike Barnhart
children's dictionaries, McKean now serves as senior editor for
U.S. dictionaries at Oxford University Press and editor of VERBATIM:
The Language Quarterly.
wanted to work on dictionaries since I was eight years old,"
says McKean. "I don't know what it is about dictionaries-probably
the idea of being responsible for creating something that most
people take for granted. The work itself is fascinating, a combination
of detective work, technical writing, and crossword puzzling."
While he was a graduate student in linguistics at the U of C,
Kleinedler freelanced as a lexicographer for the National Textbook
Company. Currently, he serves as an editor for the American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition
(Houghton Mifflin, Trade & Reference Division).
a child, I spent a lot of time sifting through my parents' dictionaries,
atlases, and almanacs," remembers Kleinedler. "I read
them cover to cover, devised charts and tables based on statistical
information I uncovered, and even invented languages." -